• sanskritibist

My mom’s friend Bettys’s Fish Curry

“Betty taught me this fish curry. She was Malaysian, I learnt this when we were living in Brunei.”

Brunei was a long time ago, 25 years ago. The country I was born and have absolutely no knowledge about. We had left for Paris by the time I was six months old and that the end. My associations of Brunei are now memories that my brother and mother tell me of. My brother had a Pakistani friend who ripped his t-shirt off once in a fight and they swore to never talk to each other but became best friends again by the next morning. My mother always talks about Naveen Chacha, who had become the closest work to family friend we had ever had while my dad was working in the ministry. Funnily, enough I have no clue of the geography or of the people of this place. They often talk about the king and the harsh seas but that is it.

And of course, Betty. My mom loves making this Malay Style Curry and she makes this more than often. Betty’s fish curry she says. I had always assumed while growing up that Betty was a nearby neighbour who had once come to our house and prepared and taught my mom how to make this delicious fish. It was only now while recording this recipe, I wanted to know more about this figure that had become a staple in our lives turned out to be a TV cook of the 80’s called Betty Saw.

It only makes sense my mom calls her her friend, because she does that anyone she sees who teaches her something. Like Maangchi who has been her closest friend for the past six years.


Rohu Fish Cut in Large Pieces, Fried / 450g

1 tsp Salt / 4 g

3/4 tsp Turmeric Powder / 3g

4 tbsp Mustard Oil

2 Medium Onion, thinly sliced / 150g

2 Medium Tomato, Chopped / 100g

4 Star Anise

3/4 tsp Cumin / 3g

10 Cloves Garlic / 10g

2 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste / 20g

2 tbsp Mustard Paste / 10g

3/4 tsp Red Chilli Powder / 3g

1 tsp Coriander Powder / 5g

1 tsp Turmeric Powder / 4g 

Water / 10g

1 Green Chilli, Slit / 5g

60g Dahi+ 40g Water, Whisked

400g Boiled Water

250g Thin Coconut Milk

1/2 Salt tsp Garam Masala / 2g

2 tsp Salt / 7g


For this recipe we used Rohu fish but if you are living abroad a Mackerel also works great for this recipe. If you have a whole fish cut it into large pieces. Clean and wash your fish thoroughly. Now Marinate it for 30 minutes with 1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp turmeric powder. We don’t like to over-marinate fish because it tends to fall off from the bones.

Take a big pan or a wok and heat mustard oil over medium heat.  Fry your fish 10 minutes each side.  Remove and set it aside on a paper towel so it absorbs the oil. In the same wok, add more mustard oil if necessary and add sliced onions and fry them till they are golden, now add in the tomatoes and cover your wok with a lid till you can the oil separates. Turn the heat off and let this mixture cool. While the mixture is cooling take a bowl and whisk 60g of dahi and 40g of water together. Make sure that there are no lumps at all. Set aside for the next step Put the onions and tomato mixture in a blender and leave the oil behind in the wok. Blend the mixture till it turns into a smooth paste.

Go back to the same wok and add more oil if necessary. Turn your flame to a medium heat and add in 4 pieces of star anise, 3/4 tsp of cumin till it starts to pop. Now add 2 tbsp each of ginger-garlic paste and Dijon or a mustard sauce. We used 1/2 Salt fermented pasted for ours. Fry it till it turns golden. Switch the flame to low heat and add the 3/4 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp turmeric powder and add in 2 tsp of water.

Add the bowl of whisked dahi and water you had set aside to your wok and keep stirring it in low a simmer till the paste is thick. Make sure you don’t curdle it. Now add 400g of boiled water and let it cook for in simmer for 10 minutes. Add 2 tsp of salt.

Add in the fried fish along with 250g of thin coconut milk. If you only have thick coconut milk, you need to add 150g of water to it and reduce the amount of water you boiled. Stir it well so it doesn’t curdle while adding the milk so it doesn’t curdle. Keep staring for another 1-2 minutes.At this point slit one green chilli and add it to your curry. Cover your wok with a lid but don’t cover it completely. Let some steam come out otherwise your fish will completely come off its bones. Cook it in simmer for 10 minutes.  Add garam masala in the last two minutes.  And turn off the flame. This is best served after 3-4 hours or overnight with rice.

#Bettysaw #Malaysianfishcurry #rice #fish #fishcurry

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